Church Music: Unity or Division?

I love music of almost every genre. My favorites in the secular world include classic rock, country, classic pop and easy listening. My favorite station on Pandora is Dinner Party Radio. I like musicals, both on stage and film. Music brings joy to my life. It is an important part of my life. And, you know what? It is important to God, too.

“David and the commanders of the army set apart for the service some of the sons of Asaph and of Heman and of Jeduthun, who were to prophesy with lyres, harps and cymbals;”

1 Chronicles 25:1

As I read through the Bible I am struck by the number of times music is mentioned. The entire 25th chapter of 1 Chronicles describes how the various roles around music were assigned in the Jerusalem temple. The Chronicles can admittedly be some dry reading. But what I see in these books is a characteristic of God around organization, both in terms of keeping records and setting up the temple for the worship of God. Chapter 25 of 1 Chronicles is all about the music, and it concludes by telling us that 288 priests were assigned to provide the music for worship. That is a significant investment of talent!

Sadly, musical preference often causes division in the modern church. Believers sometimes argue about music, even leaving one church for other over musical style. Me? I grew up with the worship service built around a chanted “high church” liturgy. The liturgy I grew up with in the Lutheran church comes straight from Scripture; we use God’s Words in worship! I grew up singing beautiful hymns accompanied by a majestic pipe organ played by skilled hands and feet. These styles of worship seem to be diminishing in popularity, but they are still offered in many churches today.

My church offers a beautiful and meaningful “traditional” worship service each Sunday. I sing in the Chancel Choir. It is a God-honoring worship service. We also worship in more contemporary fashion led by a praise band that, quite frankly, can rock! Our band plays traditional hymns and they play modern worship songs as well. Some in the congregation sing along while others soak up the music as they worship God. Me? I’m a singer. I like to sing. This more modern style of worship is also meaningful. It also honors God. And I like it, too.

It saddens me, though, that churches sometimes divide over musical style. My church, for example, offers “contemporary” worship and “traditional” worship. These services take place at different times on Sunday mornings. This is a common phenomenon these days. And it bothers me. While music is clearly important to God as evidenced by the number of mentions in Scripture, it was never intended to divide us. But, if we are honest, we have to acknowledge that some of the more heated discussions that flare up in a church are around musical style and taste. Indeed, musical style for some is sacred ground on which another must not tread.

Houston, as you know, was hard hit by Hurricane Harvey in 2017. During the months that followed the storm, my church offered one service each Sunday morning due to the number of members impacted by the storm and unable to attend worship. The service was “blended” musically. The pipe organ played beautiful hymns, the Chance Choir offered an anthem, and the praise band led much of the music with the praise team leading much of the singing. It was amazing! We demonstrated that a variety of musical styles can contribute together to a very meaningful and God-honoring worship service. Many of our members (myself included) were disappointed when the time came a few months later to resume our normal worship schedule – contemporary at 9:00 and traditional at 11:15.

I may be stepping on some toes here, and that is not my intent. I’m simply suggesting that we believers keep an open mind when it comes to musical style in church. Let us not allow this to become a point of contention or division. Music that glorifies God and honors His Word should be embraced, whether accompanied by a majestic pipe organ and led by a choir, or accompanied by a praise band and led by a praise team. I find great joy in both. Both can coexist. Until then, on many Sundays, I attend both services: contemporary and traditional.

“Sing to the Lord a new song; Sing to the Lord all the earth!”

Psalm 96:1 NIV

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit YouVersion

(c) workisministry 2020

Real Transformation

As I watched the news the other night, violence, lawlessness and dysfunction dominated the broadcast. At one point I shook my head as I caught myself asking aloud, “where are our leaders?”

Our nation is in distress, and I am dismayed that those elected to public office seem content to allow the violence, lawlessness, and destruction to continue. This is not how we address challenges or problems, but it seems as if many in our country see this activity as good and necessary. I don’t. Not at all. Through these actions, I see a nation that is increasingly abandoning all sense of goodness, righteousness, unity and faith. I see a nation that is embracing divisiveness, violence, hatred and sin. Our nation needs somebody to rise above the fray and bring us together. Our nation needs a transformation.

“The real transformative work of a nation is the transformative work of the Gospel.”

Pastor Allistair Begg

Immediately upon lamenting the violence, lawlessness and the lack of leadership I perceive, God reminded me of these words from Pastor Allistair Begg of Truth for Life. Then, the next morning, YouVersion Bible App offered this reminder from the psalms as its verse of the day:

“My help comes from the Lord, the maker of Heaven and Earth.”

Psalms 121:2 NASB

God’s timing is perfect and His Word is rich. I am praying that our nation is transformed from deep within our collective souls. No human, no political party, and certainly no radical group of anarchists can bring about the transformation our nation needs. But God can. Those of us who trust in Him must be in prayer. We must not allow ourselves to be dragged into the mire of hatred, lawlessness and disunity. We know the Truth. We are to shine the light of the Gospel on our world, beginning with our own homes and our own spheres of influence. Some will mock. Some will jeer. But many will see the light and be drawn to it. Through the Gospel, God will effect change. Let us not lose faith; rather, let us press on.

Soli DEO Gloria!

(c) workisministry 2020

Unity over Division

A few days ago, our local news channels posted various questions to Twitter asking whether or not people planned to visit Texas businesses that reopened May 1. Many of the comments posted in response to the question were quite disturbing. Rather than simply answering the question, several people spewed vitriol at people whose positions differed from theirs. People who look forward to a safe reopening and who plan to patronize businesses were called greedy, money-hungry, uncaring and worse. People who said they will stay home a while longer to ensure their safety were accused of living in fear and giving in to the virus. Just that morning, these words of Jesus were part of my daily Bible reading:

“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.”

Mark 3:24 NASB

To be perfectly honest, I am more concerned for the long-term survival of American society than I am about Coronavirus or the ramifications of reopening the economy too quickly. When peoples’ first reaction to a statement with which they disagree is to attack the person making the statement, something is horribly wrong.

I am a frequent visitor to various social media sites. I probably spend more time there than I should. But I enjoy it. Through Facebook, I enjoy keeping up with friends from high school and college. I enjoy seeing what is happening in their lives and wishing them a happy birthday when the app reminds me it is their big day. On Twitter, I follow various pastors, news outlets, and bloggers and this has become one of my primary means of accessing news and information from various sources. I have two Instagram accounts – one @workisministry where I offer content similar to what is available here, and the other @jeffstrege where I share more personal content. Both are publicly viewable. Until recently, I had no idea there are Instagram bloggers and I now follow several while offering content of my own. And, lastly, I recently set up a channel on You Tube called “My Morning Walk”. I’ve been encouraged to explore something called Tik Tok, but I think what I have currently is enough. Let me know if you disagree.

Indeed, social media is a great tool, but it is rife with abuse. From the relative safety of an anonymous presence, some people post harmful, derisive, divisive – crap. And, for many, this appears to be the level of discourse they prefer. Speaking from uninformed, simplistic and naive positions, many of these people gain followers who hang on every word. And, through them, the seeds of divisiveness and anger are sown.

Jesus’ words here are most certainly true. A kingdom, or in our case a nation, divided against itself will not stand. As we deal with the serious issues presented by the Coronavirus, let us do so with empathy, kindness and thoughtfulness. Let us not allow those who seek division over unity to succeed. And, more than anything, let us all strive to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. That is my pledge.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry 2020